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Christie's High-Profile Auction Postponed Amid Web Glitches

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Benjamin Hughes

May 12, 2024 - 10:13 am

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Christie's High-Stakes Auction Delayed Over Technical Woes

In a recent turn of events, the acclaimed auction house Christie's has announced a postponement of its highly anticipated watch auction in Geneva, which was originally scheduled for Monday. The delay comes in the wake of technological difficulties that have beset the auction house's web systems.

Crucial Auction Deferred

The event, aptly titled "Rare Watches," was set to showcase an exclusive collection of opulent timepieces previously owned by the racing legend Michael Schumacher. The collection, an assembly of esteemed brands such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and FP Journe, has seen its auction date pushed to Tuesday due to the technical hindrances. A spokesperson for Christie's addressed the matter through a formal statement but withheld detailed comments regarding the specifics of the technological predicament.

Technical Setback Amidst Charity Success

The disruption, described by the auction house as a "technology security issue," manifested on Friday, leading to the website being rendered inaccessible. Despite this setback, the "Only Watch" charity auction was executed as planned on the same day. However, the technical impairments inhibited online bidders from engaging in the event. The charity auction still managed a commendable outcome, amassing 28.3 million Swiss francs, equivalent to approximately $31.2 million. The revenue was generated through the concerted efforts of attendees who were present on-site or engaged via phone bids for watches graciously donated by a number of 47 distinguished brands.

The company spokesperson reaffirmed Christie's steadfast dedication to delivering superior service quality to its clients and expressed optimism for the ongoing sales week in Geneva to maintain its momentum of success.

Unresolved Details of the Security Incident

The nature of the security issue that led to such drastic measures remains undisclosed, with Christie's not confirming whether the situation was a consequence of a cyberattack. Data integrity and cybersecurity have become of paramount importance in the modern digitized landscape, especially for high-stakes businesses like Christie's. The auction house has taken the precaution to keep its main website offline as of Sunday morning to potentially safeguard against any additional threats.

Alternative Measures and Forward Planning

To accommodate client needs and maintain operational fluidity, Christie's has furnished alternative online links, granting their clientele and prospective bidders uninterrupted access to peruse upcoming auction catalogs.

Christie’s Upcoming New York Auctions

Christie's is not just facing challenges in Geneva but is also gearing up for a significant round of auctions in New York. Next week's major May auctions boast of artworks collectively valued between $578 million and $846 million. Specifically, the evening sales scheduled for May 14 and May 16 are slated to potentially generate proceeds as high as $656 million, based on pre-sale estimates provided by the auction house.

The Current Climate of Auction Markets

It is imperative to note that these events transpire against the backdrop of a sensitive period for the art and watch auction markets globally. According to a report by UBS and Art Basel, there was a noted decline of approximately 4% in the global sales of art and antiques in the past year. In correlation, Christie's itself has disclosed a 25% slump in its sales value.

The Ups and Downs of Watch Sales

The auction market's fluctuations have similarly affected watch sales. As per the Hammertrack report issued in March by the industry consultancy firm, the Mercury Project, there has been a 13% decrease in total watch sales at premier auction houses. This decrease totals to 610 million Swiss francs (about $696 million) for the year 2023, a dip from the record-breaking sales figures of the preceding year.

Watches of Distinction: Legal Challenges Overcome

Christie's has been in the spotlight before for the sale of prestigious timepieces, such as the Rolex GMT that once belonged to the Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, which fetched close to $5 million at a previous Christie's auction. However, the delivery of this significant piece, along with others, was briefly hindered by a legal dispute in Switzerland with the seller. This challenge has since been resolved, clearing the path for the recipients to claim their exquisite acquisitions.

A Resolute Christie's in the Face of Adversity

The recent issues have showcased Christie's resilience and commitment to client service despite the complexity of unforeseen technical challenges. The swift actions taken by Christie's, especially in providing alternative means for clients to access auction information, illustrates the auction house's dedication to excellence and adaptability in an ever-evolving market landscape.

Christie’s unwavering service to its clientele is further exemplified by its ability to regroup and reschedule important events effectively, thereby upholding its market position as a leading auction house.

For more information on upcoming auctions and to access catalog previews, Christie’s has extended resources to its clientele through alternative links available on their official communications.

Moving Forward: Christie's Endeavor to Excel

Despite these tribulations, Christie's remains vigilant and proactive in the promotion and execution of its auctions while securing its client's interests and satisfaction. The forthcoming Geneva and New York auctions stand as a testament to the organization's agility in face of adversity and their unwavering aspiration to lead the auction industry with distinction. The renowned house looks yet to another successful chapter, adhering to the grace and expertise that has been its hallmark for decades.

In conclusion, international buyers, art connoisseurs, and watch aficionados alike eagerly anticipate the resumption of normalcy and the promise of new opportunities at Christie’s auctions. With hope, the recent glitch will soon make way for future triumphs, as the auction house continues to make its mark on the global stage of high-value auctions with both poise and proficiency.

Additional information about Christie’s and its auctions, including alternative viewing options, can be found at their official channels.

With special acknowledgments to the assistance received from James Tarmy, Andrew Martin, and Paula Doenecke, Christie’s navigates this technological impasse with the expertise and support of a team committed to the highest level of service and the successful realization of its auction events.

Lastly, Christie’s appreciates the patience and understanding of its clientele during these times and looks forward to resuming its activities with enhanced vigour and commitment to advancing the fine art and timepiece auctions to greater heights.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Access Christie’s Alternative Auction Catalogs Here

Direct Inquiries Regarding Auctions to Christie’s Customer Service

(Note: # denotes links to Christie’s website and catalogs which will be added when the site is back online.)

In an intricate web of classical artistry and contemporary complications, Christie's is poised to overcome the digital disruptions and reinforce its position as the paragon of auctioneering. As the art and luxury item markets continue to flourish, Christie's endeavors to marry the charm of the past with the innovation of the future will undoubtedly captivate the imaginations and wallets of discerning collectors around the globe.